Seth came into work and told me last night’s nightmare. I’m not overly concerned, as Seth is young and still highly impressionable. It was him, he said. Taller, better looking, much better dressed—but it was him. Bob! he shouted. Bob! It’s HIM! Lear Jet Guy!
He sidles into the room as silent as Death in patent leather loafers. Tall, gaunt, balding, with long thin strings of greasy gray hair falling onto his Members Only jacket, eyes shielded by wire wraparound sunglasses, Guess jeans hanging on his hips. And, like Death, he is only interested in things that are black.
Do you have any black ice axes? Black carabiners? Black climbing rope? They gotta be black. And not shiny black. Matte black. He, however, is very pale, with grayish skin that seldom sees the sun.
I walk over to the climbing counter and show him our vast array of non-black ice tools. They don’t come in black, except for the rope. It’s a static line, good for—it’s for my Lear Jet, he says, interrupting, talking very quietly out of the side of his snake lips. It’s in case I have to land on the ice. On a mission. I could be anywhere in the world tomorrow. Or the day after. You never know. You just have to be ready. I can’t tell you any more than that. Only half of his mouth moves. He is very soft spoken.
Before I can escape he inquires about more climbing equipment, in exquisite, stupefying detail. Tensile strength, breaking strength, kilo newtons, metallurgy. I am trapped, and some part of his prehensile self knows it. This is more attention than he’s gotten in years. Even so, like a world-class poker player, he shows no emotion. He never smiles. He never laughs. He has no perceptible affect. This takes the better part of an hour. He leaves without buying anything.
The next week he comes back. My evasive tactics fail. I am his prey, and he hones in on me like a guided missile. Say what you want about lunatics: they are nothing if not determined. What about sleeping bags, he asks? What if I were stuck somewhere—where? I can’t tell you—and I needed to survive? I’d be in my Lear Jet, emergency landing. What kind of nylon is this? Doesn’t it come in black? Ten sleeping bag dissections later, he oozes out of the store. We begin calling him Lear Jet Guy.
Once a week for many months he came in, each time grilling some poor schmuck who doesn’t know any better about equipment, always different: tents, bags, jackets, PFDs, outerwear, always in black, always for an unspecified mission. You never know who will call. Could be anytime, day or night. He’s ready—or he would be, if he’d only actually buy something. Anything. As long as it comes in black.
He haunts us still.
by Bob Aldrich
Through July 1, retail sales staff answered the contest call to submit a story of survival and perseverance in the face of challenging customers. The story titles with summaries that made the first round of qualifications are listed below, and each is now in the hands of our judges to decide on the top 10. You can read each story in its entirety by going to the contest landing page -- click here.
Ten lucky story writers will each win over $1,000 in product prizes based on the contest judges' votes. Here is where you come in! Of those 10, one will be named the grand prizewinner, cashing in on a trip for two to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2007. Three others will be named official "honorable mentions," and in addition to the valuable prizes, each will receive a gift certificate that can be redeemed toward attendance at an Outdoor Industry Association-sponsored event, such as Outdoor University, Mountain Sports Festival or the OIA Rendezvous. The grand prize winner will be announced at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2006. We will determine the grand prize winner and the three runner up winners based on popular vote (sorry judges) -- those among the top ten receiving the most votes win, it's that simple. This is for store pride, for knowing you have a winner amongst you, so vote as often as you like. Tell your friends. Tell your friends friends. Tell your dog -- but only if he can work a computer keyboard.
Deadline for voting is August 1, 2006.Click here to register your vote now!
Did you miss out on this year's contest? Bummer, but no worries. If you haven't already done so, outdoor retail staff can get ready for next year by activating a subscription now at www.snewsnet.com/freeretail/snewsarticle-contest.html. Then, watch your SNEWS® for announcements calling for our next contest entries and get ready to be a winner.